New season, same old "Entourage."
Sunday's premiere ushered in the eighth and final installment HBO's bro-tastic show. Seven more episodes and Vince and Co. say bye-bye. (There are reports that they'll reunite in a big screen feature film, but if the ludicrous spectacle that was the "Sex and the City" movie series serves as an example, let's just call this the last hurrah.)
Executive producers Doug Ellin, Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg are serving up the usual for season eight. While the specifics may change -- Vince (Adrian Grenier) emerges from rehab, E (Kevin Connolly) and Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui) split up again, Ari (Jeremy Piven) is without a wife -- the refrain remains the same. Vince whines. E yells. Ari yells louder. Drama makes it all about him. Turtle gets high. And, scene.
Even when the guys fall on hard times, things look pretty swell. Season eight opens with Vince leaving a Promises-like rehab clinc after being busted for cocaine possession. If this were real life, he'd be Lindsay Lohan. But, of course, it's not real life so unlike Lohan, Vince is not hard up for work, friends or health insurance, and he celebrates his sobriety with a truck-load of straightedge babes and buddies. Even when his house burns down, his chi remains unrattled. His biggest problem: Everyone's too nice to him. Boo-hoo.
But, it gets better. "Entourage" gets a dose of new energy from Andrew Dice Clay, who next week begins a multi-episode arc as Drama's (Kevin Dillon's) "Johnny Bananas" co-star. Playing himself -- that is, a once A-list comedian in search of a comeback -- he portrays the desperation of Hollywood's paycheck-to-paycheck class in a way that the rest of the cushy characters cannot. Matt LeBlanc parodied his personality for Showtime's "Episodes" and scored an Emmy nomination. Clay could be next.
As in past seasons, among the major players, it's Ari's storyline that's most compelling. The former king of Hollywood has lost his queen and some of his spark as well. Defeat washes over him when Mrs. Ari (Perry Reeves) reveals she's seeing someone, and even some good old-fashioned Lloyd bashing and a date with a fine-looking 20-something can't give this dog back his bark.
Piven made "Entourage" a must-watch with his incomparable rants and brink-of-explosion bouts of rage. See: Season two, episode 13, when Ari gets fired from the agency he runs for trying to start his own firm, declares to the staff, "You all know that when I go, in no time you will be repping nobodys like Bill from 'The Apprentice,'" smashes his cell phone, loses his Mercedes and gets driven home by his assistant in what Ari calls "a prop car from 'The Fast and the Furious.'" An end to the series would not be OK without another outburst like that.
There's not much time left. "I'm fine," Vince swears near the end of Sunday's show. Yes, the end of "Entourage" will be fine, but unless the action goes into overdrive in episodes four through eight, the series will go out with more of a whimper than a bang.